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A few commentators and I have observed over the years how politicians don’t understand social media. It seems that many of them think it’s a way to pontificate or score a few cheap points over your political opponents, nothing more. This is especially true of Twitter, where some of them put out all sorts of nonsense & forget that the electorate (many of whom are far better informed) have the right to reply and the unwary can end up getting their arse handed to them on a plate. When a politician decides to tweet, there’s normally no battle scarred Press Officer looking over their shoulder, ready to snatch the phone off them whilst shouting ‘Noooo…’!

The latest victim of this phenomenon is the man who fancies himself as the next Labour leader – Andy Burnham MP, who tweeted this earlier:

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Such an uninformed cheap shot at both the Government and the rail industry wasn’t going to go unchallenged. Burnham had left an open goal & one of the first to reply was a rail industry & PR veteran, the ‘Fact Compiler’

FC burnahm

In truth, it was an incredibly stupid thing for Burnham to tweet. For a start, there wasn’t ‘total chaos’. I’ve been travelling today & used both the East coast & Midland main lines – including Cross Country services. Apart from some delays, there’s been few real problems. And, believe me, if anyone’s going to suffer from speed restrictions or ‘chaos’ – it’s Cross Country. Their franchise stretches from Cornwall to Scotland! I was at Derby & the latest train I saw indicated was 10 minutes. Nor have I seen ‘chaos’ mentioned in other TOCs Twitter feeds – or on Facebook. What this shows is neither understanding of the railways nor commonsense when it comes to public relations. Needless to say, many other Tweeters (including myself) joined in and Burnham was left looking an idiot. However, he didn’t learn & unabashed, added to his woes with this untruthful & cheap jibe..

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Of course, his problem is the fact that trans-pennine electrification & line upgrade hasn’t been cancelled at all, it’s merely been postponed whilst a bigger & more comprehensive scheme is designed. Burnham should know this. If he doesn’t, he’s very questionable Labour leadership material. That said, I’m not too surprised. His leadership campaign manager is Shadow Transport Minister Michael Dugher – also well known for making an arse of himself on social media. (see previous blogs like this).

My concern is this. Is this really the best the Labour party have to offer as future leaders? Can you imagine the likes of Blair, Brown (or even Milliband) making such schoolboy errors? If Burnham (and Dugher) really are the future Labour leadership then I can see only one result in the 2020 election – and it ain’t a Labour win. Having your arse handed to you on a plate via Twitter is one thing, but by voters at a general election?